Archive | January, 2012

Mission Pineapple Wine – Complete!

31 Jan

If you recall, I started my wine making journey back in July. As of January, my mission is complete and now I just have to patiently wait for my wine to age. It was a long process with not a lot of hands on time but a lot of waiting time. I’m totally doing it again! It’s awesome to look and see that i’ve got a shelf full of homemade wine.

About the wine:

Originally, this wine was dry, similar to a chardonnay. I’m not a huge fan of dry wines, so I decided to stabilize my wine and sweeten it. I then let it sit for a couple more weeks just to make sure the yeast was in fact dead and I wouldn’t have a bunch of corks popping out of my wine bottles once I bottled it! Right now the wine has a strong alcohol taste, which is why it needs to age. Over time that will decrease and the flavors will meld and smooth out for a pleasant drinking experience.

I followed the recipe in this book and tripled it (it seems like a lot of effort to get only one gallon of wine, so 3 gallons was more worth my time). It’s got some decent details, however you want to have a little bit of knowledge about wine making. The main thing is you want to make sure EVERYTHING you are using – utensils, measuring cups, buckets, carboys, bungs – are sanitized. Otherwise it can ruin your wine. Ruined wine would be bad. This summer I’m going to make a watermelon wine. Next I’d like to do a red fruit wine – either strawberry, cherry or raspberry with a canned fruit from the local wine & beer supply place. If the results are good, I’ll post the recipes! Before trying the legit wine making method again, I’m going to make what the internet is calling “prison wine” – which is fruit, water & sugar. To up the alcohol content, I’m going to add wine yeast. I’ll be documenting the process for you!

The 3 gallons yielded me 14 bottles + 1 quart mason jar. Not bad. Once I get a couple other batches going we’ll have a nice homemade stockpile.

Canned Pineapple Wine

Recipe from The Joy of Home Winemaking by Terry Garey

Yield: 1 gallon (double or triple everything in this recipe BUT THE YEAST to make a larger batch. One packet yeast is enough for 1-5 gallons)

3 1/2 quarts water

2 16oz cans crushed pineapple in juice

2lbs sugar or honey

1tsp acid blend

1tsp yeast nutrient

1 campden tablet, crushed (optional)

1/2tsp pectic enzyme

1 packet champagne yeast

Heat the water. Drain the juice (reserve for later use) from the fruit, place the fruit into a nylon straining bag, and put the bag in the bottom of a sanitized primary fermenter.

Add the fruit juice to the warm water. Add 1 1/2lbs of the sugar and stir until dissolved. Be sure it is dissolved and check the PA. For this wine you want about 12% potential alcohol. If the PA is below 12% add the additional 1/2 cup sugar. (you most likely will need to)Measure the PA again. Do not worry if it is a degree off. Pour the water and sugar syrup mixture over the fruit in the fermenter and add the acid and yeast nutrient. After the must cools, add the crushed campden tablet if you choose to use one. Cover and fit with an air lock. Twelve hours after the campden tablet, add the pectic enzyme. If you don’t use the tablet, you can wait until the must cools and add the pectic enzyme.

24 hours later, add the yeast.

Let it ferment for 5 days, stirring daily. When the PA falls to 3-4%, remove the fruit. Drain it well but do not squeeze. Let the wine settle, then rack into a gallon jug (or whatever size jug required depending on if you double/triple the recipe). Bung and fit with an air lock.

Rack the wine once or twice over the next 3-6 months. When fermentation is done and wine is clear, taste it. If you want it sweeter, stabilize it and sweeten it with dissolved sugar or boiled honey, then bottle.

Note: to give the wine more body, I added 1/2lb of golden raisins. I did sweeten my wine as it was too dry for my liking. I racked my wine twice in between July 4, 2011 (first added to carboy) to January 22, 2012(bottled and ready to age) to get rid of any excess pulp/yeast at the bottom of the carboy. And I did squeeze my fruit to get out every last drop of fruity goodness. It just made a little extra pulp that I had to filter out. For my corks I used synthetic corks because they don’t have to be soaked prior to using, and it allows me to store my wine bottles upright instead of on their sides. No worries about the corks drying out!

Sunday Suppers – Wedding Soup

23 Jan

Wedding soup is one of those things that I can remember eating all my life. It was filling and wonderful, especially after a day spent outside playing in the leaves or the snow. As an adult, it’s great to have on a cold day in front of the fire as a way to unwind after a busy weekend. My Bubba had made it all while my mom grew up, and my mom then put her own spin on the “recipe” to make it her own, and I have now done the same. Now, the reason for “recipe” is simple – there isn’t one. My Bubba didn’t write down or measure anything when she cooked. It was just common knowledge she filed away in her brain and would make from memory. Now I know my mom did this too because no recipes exist in all of her things, and she had never given my sister and I anything even remotely resembling a recipe. Essentially these recipes, such as this one, exist from observation. My mom would observe the things my Bubba would use to make something, and over my childhood I did the same. This recipe here is one I took the time to monitor what I was putting into the soup and it’s essentially a guideline. Cooking is something you should make your own, whether you follow a recipe, memory, or improvise and go from scratch. You need to stick to the basic components – meatballs, broth, spinach and carrots. The meatball recipe I listed is almost the same version I use when I make meatloaf, minus a few ingredients – just add some ketchup and coarse ground mustard and you’ve got meatloaf! Feel free to make whatever version of meatball you like, or add/remove any ingredients from my recipe to make it your own.

Again, this is a large yield soup recipe. Cut it in half or make the whole batch and freeze part of it. If you are going to freeze it, leave the pasta out of the portion you want to freeze, that way it won’t get mushy.Note that there is no call out for shredded chicken in my recipe – I omit this step because the meatballs are a mix of beef and turkey, so we’re still getting the poultry component and it just makes it quicker skipping this. Noone misses or notices anyway. Leaving the chicken out lets the meatballs be the star!

My last word of advice – don’t cheat and use store bought meatballs. Wedding soup is so simple to begin with, and there is no substitute for homemade meatballs. There just isn’t. And people will know you cheated because no home cook makes perfectly portioned and shaped meatballs.

Wedding Soup

Ingredients for meatballs:

2 1/2lbs beef/turkey meat mixture

1/2 cup shredded parmesan

1/3 cup chives

2tbsp garlic salt

1tbsp pepper

1 large egg

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1tbsp worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Make bite size meatballs by taking about 1 teaspoon of the meat mixture and rolling it between your palms. Place completed meatballs on a cookie sheet. You should get around 200 meatballs, depending on what bite sized means to you. I got about 196. Set aside.

For the soup:

4 32oz cartons chicken broth, plus 1 additional in case too much broth is soaked up by the pasta

2 10oz bags shredded carrots

1 28oz bag chopped frozen spinach

3 cloves garlic, minced

1lb ditalini pasta (or whatever you prefer, following package directions for cooking)

Bring broth to a boil in a large soup pot. Once the broth starts to boil, add the meatballs, one at a time, SLOWLY so you do not splash yourself with molten hot broth. About halfway through adding the meatballs, give the pot a stir to avoid any of the meatballs sticking together. Once all the meatballs are added, let them boil for about 10 minutes.

Add the bags of shredded carrots and minced garlic, letting boil for about 5 minutes. Add Ditalini pasta (if freezing some soup, remove portion that you would like to freeze BEFORE adding pasta. Adjust amount of pasta you add depending on how much soup remains.) Cook pasta as directed, about 10 minutes. Shut off burner and add spinach. Stir until combined and heated through. If the pasta has soaked up too much broth, add the additional carton of broth.

Serve immediately.

The DIY Life: Burlap Candle Wreath

16 Jan

I am a country girl at heart. I  may not live in the actual country, not enough into the country anyways because I can still see other houses, cars, and people from my windows, but I love all things country. I love that cozy home decor style. I want people to feel comfortable when they come to my house. Relaxed. At ease. Not like a guest, but like they belong here while they are here. And I think they do. At least people say all the time how cozy our house is.

Now, with all those warm fuzzy words, burlap does not itself emit warm and fuzzy feelings. Not by itself of course. BUT, turn it into a candle wreath, light the candle, viola!!! Warm and fuzzy. I found this wreath through pinterest, and I had pinned it planning to get to it eventually, and originally it was meant for a door wreath. But my friend Kelly utilized it as a centerpiece on her holiday table with a hurricane and candle. And I was once again inspired to make it. I plan on making another one as an actual door wreath, and instead of pinning burlap all around it, i’ll wrap the foam wreath ring in fabric and then pin the burlap loops to the front so it lays nicely on the door (our door is a big window that we would be able to see the back of the wreath, and green foam is not so nice to look at!).

This project is simple, requires zero sowing, but patience and some time. And LOTS of pins. Make sure you purchase the extra long silver pins. Otherwise you’ll go through even more pins attempting to keep the burlap squares in place. In the tutorial links below, they used the pins with the colored heads, I avoided this because there are sections where the pin is not totally hidden and I didn’t want any random color tops popping out.

You will need one yard of burlap cut into 4×4 inch squares – don’t worry about it being a perfect square. burlap is a pain to cut, so you’re going to have some oddball pieces. it works.

pack of extra long silver pins

foam floral wreath, in whatever size you require. I used a 12 inch wreath to fit my needs.

Here is my candle wreath:

And here are links to a couple of the tutorials. I wasn’t that worried about making it look neat and organized like the first tutorial. I like that mine is a little rough and loopy as the second link is. Just like me!

And here is the latest update: I made the actual door wreath – still using the same materials called out for the original burlap candle wreath, but I wrapped the foam ring in 3 strips of burlap so when looking out our door the back looked as pretty as the front. I used 1 1/2 yards of a flowy material to hang the wreath, leaving the edges of the material raw and frayed to go with the rustic look of the burlap. I just tied it into a pretty bow and twisted the loose ends of the fabric to make it look nice. I love the result!

Did someone say bacon?!?!?!?

12 Jan

Mmm….bacon. Such an amazing foodstuff. That salty smoky flavor…that crispy crunchy goodness. Yum. And apologies in advance, I was in such a hurry to get the dip out I forgot to take a photo of the heated cheesy bubbling goodness from the oven. Just take my word for it, it’s awesome looking. And tasting.

This dip is D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!!!! And so easy to make. And a real crowd pleaser. I made this for NYE last year and this year, and it was devoured. Almost nothing left but the bread! For the bacon I use the precooked type because it only takes a couple of minutes to crisp up and doesn’t have to be drained as much. Feel free to use turkey bacon in place of the regular if you are looking for more calorie cutting.  If bacon isn’t your thing, you could leave it out and still have a really flavorful dip sure to please. You could also bake this without a bread boat and just put it in a baking dish or in a crock pot for an easy appetizer.

Baked Bacon & Cheese Dip

  • 1 unsliced loaf of french or italian bread
  • 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 8oz block light cream cheese, at room temp
  • 1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1/2 large vidalia onion, finely chopped
  • 7 strips of bacon, chopped, cooked and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice out the center of your loaf of italian bread, making a bread bowl “boat”. Hollow out the bread loaf to make room for the dip. Reserve the extra bread for dipping.

Combine all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stirring to combine. Fill in the bread boat and spread out over the edges of the loaf. Place bread loaf in a baking dish and wrap in foil to keep the bread from drying out.

Bake for 40 minutes or until heated through. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until  the top is brown and bubbling.  Serve with additional bread chunks, chips, crackers or celery. Or all of those things.

mmm....bacon. and cheese. drool.

The DIY Life: Homemade Laundry Detergent

6 Jan

As some of you may know, I am on a mission to make as many things from scratch as possible. When I listen to my gram talk about her childhood, things were simpler. Sure, times were tough, but they always had full bellies, fun, and ate the things they grew and cooked from scratch. Today, we are all so busy that we become reliant of fast food options and quick fixes for everything. The chemicals they put in products and the preservatives in foods are causing havoc on our bodies. There are a variety of homemade laundry soap recipes out there, some with more exotic ingredients that I cannot get at my local stores (ordering online is not keeping this a thrifty project, so those were out!) Others seemed just too simplistic. So I essentially put all the ingredients together, and took out what I couldn’t find to come up with this. The ingredients listed were ones that showed up in multiple recipes so they seemed to be the most important ones. I liked that there were some people adding the oxyclean for a boost to your whites and colors. My gram remembers having to grate or shave off pieces of the Fels-Naptha bars when they did laundry, and using that in tandem with some baking or washing soda, so those were a must! When I told her about my plans and asked for her advice, she said I should use at least 3 bars of the Fels-Naptha because of the size of the other stuff I wanted to add.  (I was using whole containers of stuff, I didn’t want to have to measure!)

In an effort to save money as well as be more aware of what is in the products I’m using, I decided to give homemade laundry detergent a try. My first batch I made and shared with a few ladies who came to Christmas Eve, like a party favor. The cost for the laundry detergent ingredients, 4 containers, and 2 coffee scoops was under $25!!!

The cost for just the laundry ingredients? Wait for it…wait….$10.83!!! Yes, you read that right. If you use only 1-2 tablespoons of the detergent at a time you’ll get over 400 loads of laundry out of it! I use a heaping coffee scoop (or the scoop from the oxy clean is the same amount) so I’ll get about 200 loads of laundry out of it. 200!!! Holy bananas!

This laundry soap is safe for colors, and can also supposedly be used in the fancy HE washers based on what I’ve read on the internet to recipes that compare to this one.

I found every ingredient in the laundry aisle at Wal-Mart.

Be sure to do this somewhere you don’t care about dust. To avoid the dust, I used a 5 gallon bucket lined with a garbage bag, added all the ingredients, twisted the bag top and shook it all up. Store in an airtight container or a lidded 5 gallon bucket. It smells pretty strong when you start mixing everything up, but leaves only a very mild scent on clothes.

I haven’t found any spots of unmelted Fels-Naptha or detergent on any clothes. I sprinkle the detergent around the washer and start it filling, then I add the clothes just like I normally do. This detergent has little or no suds, so no worries about the movie nightmares of  a washer overflowing with soap bubbles.

Once I figure out the ratio to turn this to liquid detergent, I’ll post those details. Next up is homemade fabric softener! I still use good old snuggle for my fabric softener because I love the feel of laundry with fabric softener. Without everything feels like sandpaper. One step at a time!


1 4 lb 12 oz box Borax (76 oz)

1 4 lb box Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (1.81 kg)

1  box Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (55 oz) found in the detergent isle

3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap

2 small containers of oxyclean or store brand oxyclean  ( I used the store brand – it was 1/3 of the price of oxyclean!)

Grate the Fels-Naptha on a cheese grater. Add all ingredients and mix until combined! That’s it!

Gooey Butter Cookies

2 Jan

Ok, after the holidays it wasn’t like I needed to make another cookie recipe, but this one was posted on and I just couldn’t pass it up. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it is OMG delicious. For real.

The original recipe is one from Christina Tosi, owner of the Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. They are delicious. It is gooey and sweet. Did I say they are delicious? Because they are. I baked mine 10 minutes longer than the original recipe called for since the center was still wiggly and not set completely. Once cooled, I cut them into two-bite pieces and put them in mini muffin papers. Do not skip the papers…otherwise all that gooey goodness will run all over the place and people will feel cheated! I kept these covered on the counter and two days later they were still fabulous.


Gooey Butter Cookies
adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar recipe

Cookie Base
1 box french vanilla cake mix
4 ounces butter, melted
1 egg

Gooey Butter Topping
8 ounces cream cheese at room temp
2 eggs
1 pound powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 8 cake pan with nonstick spray and line with a piece of parchment cut to size, leaving two edges longer to ease removal from the pan.

Make the base by mixing together the cake mix, 1 egg, and the melted butter. Press the base into the pan in a nice even layer.

Make the gooey butter topping by creaming together the cream cheese, remaining 2 eggs, powdered sugar and the vanilla. Pour it over the base, smoothing it to the edges in an even layer. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes.

The edges should be golden brown and the center set but still melty and gooey.

Let cake cool completely. Take a butter knife and run it along the edges of the pan to loosen the cookie bar. Using the parchment edges, pull from the pan and put on a cutting board. But into two-bite squares and transfer to mini muffin papers.